Proposed bill would make welfare more accessible to families in need

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- After 20 years, one state lawmaker said it’s time for a change. Sen. Mark Stoops, a Democrat from Bloomington, wants to make welfare more accessible for Hoosier families.

In order for a family to qualify for Temporary Aide for Needy Families (TANF), their monthly income can be no more than $600 dollars. That’s based on an income standard set 20 years ago. Increasing that dollar amount would be a welcome change for families in need and advocates for them.

Instead of a flat dollar amount, the proposed Senate Bill 527 would set eligibility at a percentage: 50 percent of federal income poverty level.

About 15 percent of the population in Allen County is currently living in poverty, according to Steve Hoffman, President and CEO at Brightpoint. Hoffman said roughly 30 percent of people in Allen County do not have enough money to be self-sufficient.

“You have to be even more desperate and more impoverished to get this assistance,” said Hoffman. “If you increase it to keep up with the times, you’re making sure more people are on it and that costs the state more funds.”

Tonya Doughty, a single mom of seven, knows all too well the struggle to make ends meet. Doughty found herself fighting the uphill battle when she split from her husband. She said she struggled to maintain the lifestyle they had with one less income.

“With 7 children, it’s never enough,” said Doughty. “You know, I just worked, I just made this money and it’s gone.”

Based on the current guidelines for financial assistance Doughty not considered to be living in poverty. She has tried to get financial help but because she is currently employed and makes more than $600 a month her requests were denied.

“I told them I work but it’s just not enough,” she said. “[They told me] ‘Save your money. You’ll have enough.'”

If approved, 8,000 people across the state could be eligible for TANF. Until then, Doughty said she’ll continue to do whatever she can for her family.

“Even though I can’t get he help that I need right now because of the rules and regulations it doesn’t mean that it’s going to stop me or put me at a stand still,” she said.